Many, many years ago on our way to the Outer Banks we stopped at a random Italian restaurant in a sketchy part of Norfolk, VA. It turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ok, let me rephrase that-it was one of the best random lunches I have ever had. It did not compare to Daniel in NYC or Village Pub in Palo Alto, but it was damn good! One of the the dishes we ordered was Creamy Baked Fennel. It was to die for! I mean it was one of those dishes that you think about for weeks after. The entire family loved it which was pretty amazing considering my boys were pretty young at the time. I tried contacting the restaurant many times asking for the recipe and there was never a response so I have been trying to recreate the dish since then. I think I have finally come up with a recipe that can compete. Now, keep in mind this is in NO way healthy or good for you, but it is SO delicious! If you have never tried fennel or you think you don’t like it, I promise you will love this! Just give it a try and then drop me a line telling that you are a fennel convert:)
You can serve this as a side dish or you can serve it at a party with warm bread or crackers. It needs to be warm so I would suggest serving it in a cast iron baking dish like Le Creuset since it keeps it heat.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
Fennel can be found in almost any grocery store. They are normally not packaged like this, but thank you TJ’s for cutting off the huge green tops!
You want to use the middle part of the bulb. Use the fronds for garnish-they are totally edible!
Making a roux is the first step in any cream sauce. It is very easy, but just sounds fancy. Basically it is equal party fat (butter in this case) and flour. You use a whisk and allow it to to form a paste. Then you will add your liquid (heavy cream in this case).
I mean come on! How delicious does that look??? If you say no then we are not friends:)
Creamy Baked Fennel
Easy and delicious and totally worth the calories! Just a few simple ingredients transforms a strange vegetable like fennel into a culinary masterpiece.
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on the size of the cloves)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 lemon zested
- 2 large fennel bulbs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the tops and very bottom off of bulbs. Depending on the size of your bulb, quarter each bulb or cut into smaller pieces. Discard the very center core.
In a small pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until a roux forms. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the roux begins to brown.
Add garlic, cream, salt and lemon zest. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes on low heat.
Place cut up fennel into a 2qt baking dish.
Pour cream mixture over fennel. Top with Parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until the fennel is tender.
Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese becomes golden and bubbly. Serve with warm bread or cracker or alone as a side dish.